3D Printers ~ The Next Singularity?

The continued advancement of 3D printers offers some compelling possibilities.  If they even come close to what some have in mind, they may provide a technological singularity that would change the way we look at society.

Imagine having a printer in your home capable of printing any of the physical items you need. For some, this may seem far fetched, but 3D printers are already capable of printing more than you may think.

3D printing is no longer limited to things like printing plastic tools. Printers have been used to replicate bio-material such as organsskinkidneys, and even a replica of a beating human heart. Its even theoretically possible to print new limbs in the foreseeable future.

These applications will inevitably make it into mainstream. So let’s speculate for a moment about the limits of what may be theoretically possible – because that’s where things start to get really fun (or scary, depending on your outlook).

If these printers one day are able to print at an atomic level, limitations such as the need for raw materials and waste disposal become obsolete. At the atomic level, printer could literally take sand molecules and convert them into a pair of new shoes! 

Even food can be printed. And before you throw up your hands claiming that’s just too hard to fathom, its already being done – even hamburgers!

At this point, we need to feed the printers the proper organic matter to make that happen, but not at the atomic level.

And if you haven’t figured it out yet, the end result of this could in fact be the Sci-Fi version of the replicator. For those unwilling to embrace their inner geek, this is what I am referring to:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replicator_(Star_Trek)

So here is the crux of this post. Imagine for a moment if 3D printers one day are able to reach this potential to take any material and print out any other material. Any physical needs you wanted could be found by scooping up some dirt (or any other material), throwing into your replicator, and having it print whatever you ask. You could even have it print another printer. 

And yes, resources are not in fact “unlimited”. Even dirt. But with an atomic printer capable of rearranging atoms, you don’t need an unlimited supply. You don’t even need a big supply. You just recycle any items you aren’t using that particular day, and when you need them again, print them out again.

So what would it mean if atomic printers came to pass?

Would you still need to work? Would you even need money? What for? If no one had any needs any longer (food, water, shelter, health, toys, you name it), what the world would do with itself? Would it destroy civilization or be a renaissance?

What would you do with yourself?


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